Sometimes I worry that "fun" in music is withering away, giving way to more serious and "meaningful" and generally less accessible trends. Admittedly, some of my own favorite records of this year would fall within those categories (Lambchop's Mr. M, How to Dress Well's Total Loss). But then someone like Fletcher C. Johnson comes along and I realize that I'm full of shit.
Fletcher C. Johnson originally hails from Brattleboro, Vermont, where he grew up with fellow punk-/weed-/fun-loving Kyle Thomas. Though he no longer plays with King Tuff, Fletcher runs with the same Burger Records -associated, punk-cum-stoner crowd that lives for nothing more than a catchy song and a good time.
First of all, I should point out some obvious bias on my part. Fletcher's Salutations is my favorite album of recent memory. I spent one of the more memorable evenings of my life driving down the California coastal highway at sunset with the tape at full blast. Not to mention I booked him to play here at Wesleyan. I went into the WestCo cafe on Thursday night expecting to love Fletcher and co.'s performance - and I did. Because I had an astoundingly fun time.
(Drunk Ass) Featherwood Bee kicked off the show with their brand of booze-drenched 'Mats punk, a sort of classic rock with all the pleasure and none of the guilt. Trading off vocal duties between John Ryan's Springsteen-esque shrieks and Kelly Lee's Rivers Cuomo sneers, I found it impossible not be drawn in by Featherwood Bee's sheer performance and enthusiasm. Their guitar-driven, country-tinged rock n' roll was a perfect introduction to what would follow.
Something mysterious about Fletcher C. Johnson's music strikes me as sentimental but never derivative. His songs and melodies feel so natural, as if they couldn't possibly be constructed any other way. Right from the opening chord of "Messin' Up My Mind," I couldn't help but move to Fletcher's poppy, driven guitar hook. The lush, reverberating harmonies of "Salutations" felt joyously right. In hindsight, it could've just been the result of a few beers, but the crowd seemed to agree, dancing with reckless abandon as the cafe grew steadily warmer. Fletcher and his band began to get rowdy during the criminally short "Happy Birthday," in the middle of which guitarist Adam Beat played a ripping solo with his teeth while bassist Todd Martin pushed the tune along with his crunchy, overdriven line. Fletcher introduced the jangly "She Knows I'm High" as a cautionary tale, warning the audience to "hide your drugs from your girlfriend, cause she'll steal your weed." The band slowed things down with the nostalgic "Pacific Blue," highlighting Fletcher's nasally, saccharine, and strikingly honest voice. The gleeful crowd couldn't help but gently mosh to even this sweet, calm song. After a few more satisfyingly poppy tunes, Fletcher ended his set with the fittingly communal "Thanksgiving," belting "we're all a part of it, we're all a part of it / everything growing, the river that's flowing" as the predominantly WestCo crowd blissfully swayed to the twangy melody. I can only hope that as the cafe's fluorescent lights flickered on and people began to shuffle outside, everyone felt a similar sense of joyful abandon.
Fletcher C. Johnson certainly didn't revolutionize with the release of Salutations earlier this year. Last Thursday, he and his band played ten infectious, well-crafted, even beautiful pop songs, yet nothing more. But goddamn does it feel right, and is't that really all we need?